A PROLIFIC WRITER
An old friend lies stricken in hospital bed
IRehman has been a healthy man as far as I can remember. I have known him for 50 years ever since we were at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. Though we were not classmates since I was a year older, the fully residential school was such that we knew one another close enough.”
T has been about six weeks now and Rehman Rashid seems to be making steady progress as he lay in bed in Ward 5D at Selayang Hospital, his eyes wide open at times and tears rolling down “once in a while”, according to a close family friend.
Apart from that, he showed no emotion when I came by to visit him on Saturday. But, at least he is no longer motionless in the Intensive Care Unit, having all kinds of tubes and wires punctured through and across his body. And, he is not even breathing through a ventilator.
The doctors have instituted tracheotomy to enable him to breathe properly and to overcome problems with mucus and other secretions getting into the windpipe because of difficulty swallowing.
I was there when a nurse performed the tracheotomy and I was fighting to withhold my tears.
Rehman, a writer and a former associate editor of the New
Straits Times, was taken to hospital unconscious on Jan 26, when during his regular cycling exercises in Kuala Kubu Baru, he had to stop abruptly by the side of the road and lay there without signs of movement.
He was suspected to have suffered a heart attack.
Doctors put him on a ventilator and under sedation. A few days later, his MRI brain scan showed definite oxygen deficiency damage in areas that might affect movement, reasoning, thought processing and consciousness.
Rehman has been a healthy man as far as I can remember. I have known him for 50 years ever since we were at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. Though we were not classmates since I was a year older, the fully residential school was such that we knew one another close enough.
He has the gift of the gab from the beginning. So articulate was he that he was the mainstay of the all-conquering school debating team when he was merely in Form Three. Probably he developed an eloquent personality that early with a husky voice, plus a tall physical exterior to match.
His last posting in the NST was as associate editor, doubling up as the man in charge of the opinion section of the paper.
He had the eyes of a hawk when it came to spotting mistakes that might have escaped everyone else. At times, you could hear his unambiguous guffaws across the newsroom.
He was a prolific writer when he put his mind to it and just got two of his books published.
One, Peninsula, is a sequel to his 30-year-old bestseller A
Malaysian Journey, a social commentary. The other, A Small
Town, is about Kuala Kubu Baru where he has been staying for the past few years.
I last visited him at that town at the foot of Fraser’s Hill three months back, together with old classmates Datuk Shukri Hussin and Mohamad Ismail Ibrahim.
He was staying alone on the first floor of a shophouse. The place looked cozy with a wellstacked bookshelf and neatly arranged CDs.
I congratulated him for having such a fine place but asked him whether it would get him lonely.
“At times yes. But, then I am used to it,” he replied. In fact he said he seldom moved around in the social world anymore and stopped going for wedding receptions. “I don’t do weddings.”
His bicycle had a pride of place in his abode, hung just before the staircase to be used most regularly as he routinely worked out across Kuala Kubu Baru where almost everyone knows him.
“I like this place. Only during weekends and school holidays does it get crowded.”
He took us for lunch at a kopitiam and we each had a hearty plate of chicken chop. And, as we were about to leave, Rehman gave me a full hug and there were tears in his eyes.
It was nearly the same scene at his bedside in Ward 5D at Selayang Hospital on Saturday.
Rehman stared repeatedly at me, though it was a blank stare.
Two books written by Rehman Rashid